Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones analyse day two at the Waca.
Malan’s first Test century was a wonderful innings which blended a counter-attacking mentality with rock-solid defence. He has only faced more balls in an innings four times in his first class career yet a false shot percentage of 8.3% was evidence of the control he managed to maintain. That he played 47% of his deliveries from the seamers off the back foot – almost double the Australian average – is a consequence of the 44% short balls he faced. He was not afraid to take the short ball on, however – scoring 37 off the 51 balls pitched shorter than 9 metres from his stumps – an aggression which could well have cost him his wicket but arrested Australia’s momentum at a crucial stage on day one. While his back-foot game – although brave – was skittish, the same cannot be said of his front foot approach which saw him remain strong in defence outside off stump – playing and missing at just one delivery – and clinical in attack – scoring 54 off 40 balls pitched fuller than six metres from his stumps, an attacking efficiency clearly illustrated by his boundary wagon wheel. This was an excellent debut century and the range of skills it exhibited suggests there will be more to come.
Given the situation on Jonny Bairstow’s arrival at the crease, with England 131 for 4 and two-nil down in the series, and the quality of Australia’s attack, his innings arguably ranks as his finest performance for England. Against pace Bairstow refused to take on the short ball: of the 26 balls that pitched shorter than 10 metres from him he ducked beneath 15, swayed away from 9, and attacked the other two deliveries. Against the 80 balls that pitched between nine and six metres, that tricky in-between length, Bairstow was watchful, scoring just 38 runs and defending or playing no shot to 52% of them. It was against the fuller length that Bairstow was most productive, scoring 47 off the 44 balls that pitched fuller than 6 metres from his stumps. Bairstow’s patience against pace was compensated for by his proactivity against Nathan Lyon, scoring at 3.31 runs per over and facing 63% dot balls. Across his innings Bairstow played only 8% false shots, well below the global average of 14% – clinically executing a clear and sensible plan.
Although England’s sudden slide – which saw them lose 6 for 35 – begun with Malan getting out playing an attacking shot when coming down the pitch to Lyon, it would be remiss to blame him or his shot selection for England’s subsequent collapse. Malan’s positive intent against Lyon on day one was a significant factor in nullifying his threat. If anyone is culpable for the collapse – and starting an innings against this Australian attack is far from easy – it is Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes, who are accomplished batsmen and both got out playing tame shots. It came as no surprise when England’s nine, ten and eleven added just 14 runs between them. While Bairstow may be criticised for failing to hang around with the lower-order – playing an attacking shot across the line – he could be forgiven for having little faith in his partners who have shown no evidence that they can survive for a prolonged period in this series.
|NO. 9, 10 & 11 THIS SERIES||Runs Per Dismissal||Balls Per Dismissal|
OVERTON OPENS UP AUSTRALIA
When Craig Overton came on to bowl in the 14th over, England were wicketless, and looked flat. However, an inspired spell from the Somerset bowler brought England back into the contest. Round the wicket to a well-set David Warner, Overton managed to find 1.5° of seam away from the left-hander and found the edge. The movement was accompanied by a huge surge in pace, the wicket ball 8kph faster than Overton’s previous delivery, and Warner’s feet were frozen by the combination. Two of Overton’s four balls to Warner were back of a length, disrupting Warner’s previously fluent footwork. Similarly, the dismissal of Cameron Bancroft came from a 6kph increase in speed, but this time without any lateral movement; instead, Overton worked out the flaw in Bancroft’s technique. The ball which snuck past the right-hander’s bat and struck him on the pad was delivered from 20cm wider on the crease than Overton’s previous ball to Bancroft. The change in angle, allied with the increased pace, brought the bat down at the wrong angle and Bancroft couldn’t self-correct.
BRINGING A PEASHOOTER TO A GUNFIGHT
As England toiled against Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith, the gulf in speed between the two bowling attacks seemed vast. In this series Australia have bowled 1319 deliveries faster than 140kph (87mph), 67% of their total deliveries. Meanwhile, England have bowled 335, just 16% of their total deliveries. Of course, the skill and experience of James Anderson and Stuart Broad are valuable assets, but with a tired Kookaburra ball, the lack of pace really hurt England, as they drew just two false shots in the 66 deliveries before Khawaja’s dismissal. Through the series as a whole England have struggled to rush batsmen, taking only 10 wickets when the Australian batsmen play off the back foot – compared to the Australian attack, who’ve taken 18 wickets. Chris Woakes got the breakthrough in the end, but for much of this series England have looked pedestrian.
Steven Smith’s innings of 92* (122) has been an extraordinary display of batsmanship. Although England’s attack does lack pace, and the pitch – despite some signs of uneven bounce – appears flat and true, Smith has displayed a control on a different plane to his contemporaries. Despite playing an attacking shot to 30% of his 122 deliveries – the highest proportion of any top-order batsman in the match, he has missed just one ball (down the leg side) and edged four. According to the false rate ratio of Warner, Bancroft, Khawaja and Shaun Marsh in this innings he should have played 11 false shots in an innings as long as his. A typical Test batsman would have played 17. Smith has played five.
Overlaying Smith’s boundaries v pace in this innings on his career dismissal heatmap against pace shows how clinical Smith has been in attack. When England have fractionally missed his weak zone they have been punished.